When David Cook opened Princeton Motorcars in 2006, he knew he would have to set clear boundaries for his daily schedule. Otherwise, the demands of the job could leave him rushing around to get things done and disrupt his personal life.
“We’re daunted by all we have to do; you can only do one thing at a time.” says Cook, owner of the Atlanta-based dealership. “In one- or two-person operations, look at the stuff that is the most profitable for the dealership. If ‘fill-in-the-blank’ isn’t it, then kick it to the curb.”
Cook said he learned that lesson early in his automotive retail career when he opened his first store in 1991. It’s since helped him to stay focused so he can enjoy both his time at the office and with friends and family. Cook shared four tips for managing the daily workload:
- Set daily priorities. Each day, Cook reviews what he needs to accomplish and accordingly ranks those items on his to-do list. He analyzes his inventory to ensure that each listing is competitively priced and fully merchandised in his online advertising. “I always prioritize by the price of the vehicle,” he says. “If I have a $100,000 car and a $20,000 car, I’m going to make sure that $100,000 car is ready to roll.”
- Schedule appointments with car buyers. Rather than encouraging everyone who inquires about a listing to visit the store, Cook prequalifies prospects to weed out tire kickers. “I basically ask: ‘Is a car that I have a car that you would consider buying if it meets your expectations?'” By meeting only with in-market shoppers, Cook says he minimizes lost time. “It’s unconventional,” he acknowledged. “Frankly, it’s very effective.”
- Bring in the help you need. Rather than hire additional employees to share the workload, Cook advises dealers work with third-party vendors to perform specific tasks. At Princeton Motorcars, for example, he outsources the detailing and delivery of his vehicles.
- Delegate. If you have in-house expertise, Cook suggests that you leverage it. He relies on assistance from his business partner, Jeff Little, to handle behind-the-scenes accounting and title work so he can focus on the part of the business he most enjoys: the day-to-day retail operations.
“The nice thing about being small and independent: It’s a very dynamic environment, and it’s really easy to change quickly,” Cook says. “If it isn’t working, fix it or change it. That literally is the difference between surviving and not surviving as an independent.”